Regardless of which side you’re on when the debate turns to the question of climate change, most experts agree that the “new normal” will be more weather-related disasters in the future. Most of us have seen — in the news if not with our own eyes — what havoc earthquakes and tsunamis can wreak, and we will apparently have to get used to a world where hurricanes, floods and fires are more common than they were in the past. Last year there were nearly a thousand natural disasters worldwide, almost all of them weather-related, that were so strong that they were officially designated as “catastrophes.” In the U.S., last fall’s Hurricane Sandy left a toll of at least 283 human deaths, while property damage was estimated to more than $60 billion, making this the second-most devastating hurricane in U.S. history, exceeded only by Hurricane Katrina seven years earlier.
How do we as dog owners prepare for the day when disaster strikes? We’ve all seen photos of sad, lost dogs wandering streets with burnt-down houses in the background, or taking refuge on rooftops during a flood — but there’s a lot more to it than that. One of the characteristics of a natural disaster is, of course, that you never know when it will strike, what kind of catastrophe it will be, or how you will be affected by it, so it’s difficult to be prepared. However, there are some common denominators. One of them is that most people when told to evacuate their homes due to some danger refuse to do so unless they can safely bring their pets along. This has had the effect of convincing even government officials who are not in themselves primarily concerned about saving animals that it would be wise to pay some attention to shelters for pets, or on shelters where people may bring their pets.
A Positive Practical Step
One of the most positive practical steps that the American Kennel Club has taken recently, one that could substantially aid future rescue operations, has been rolling out a program that’s termed Pet Disaster Relief, dedicated to keeping pets and their owners safe during natural disasters. The idea is that AKC Reunite (previously known as CAR, or AKC Companion Animal Recovery) in co-operation with AKC local all-breed and national breed clubs should raise funds to supply fully stocked, mobile “disaster trailers” that can deliver essential assistance whenever and wherever needed around the country. The trailers, each of which is estimated to cost around $22,000 to fully equip, are meant to provide services primarily during the first critical 72 hours following a disaster, before the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been deployed.
Since the first meetings to discuss the project in June this year a lot has been accomplished. The decision to go ahead was announced at the AKC Delegates meeting in Newark in September, where it was met by overwhelming enthusiasm and generous donations. AKC Reunite kicked off the pledges with a promise of $250,000 over the next two years, and this has been followed by close to $150,000 in pledges from more than 30 local all-breed and national breed clubs.
“It’s imperative to find a solution for safe, effective pet sheltering in times of disaster. AKC Pet Disaster Relief provides that solution for local emergency management agencies, which are required by federal law to provide for the safety of the people and pets in their communities,” according to Tom Sharp, AKC Reunite CEO. “We look forward to working with AKC clubs around the country to raise funds for these trailers and help them present them to local officials.”
The trailers are modeled after those that were used in AKC Reunite’s home state of North Carolina during Hurrican Irene in 2011. Each trailer is stocked with essential supplies to create a safe, temporary home base for at least 50 displaced animals immediately following a disaster. Equipment includes lighting and wiring for electricity to run off either a generator or a power supply, as well as pretty much everything that could reasonably be considered useful in any emergency situation when providing safety for animals: fans, lighting, generators, cleaning and maintenance supplies, animal care items such as crates, carriers, microchips and a scanner, bowls, collars and leashes.
The First Trailer Presentation
As previously announced by Best in Show Daily, the first trailer was presented to Pamlico County emergency officials during a ceremony in Raleigh, North Carolina, on October 30. In addition to AKC Reunite representatives, officials from several different state and local departments were in attendance: County Emergency Management, Department of Agriculture, Department of Public Safety, as well as State Representative Michael Speciale, who thanked those involved for their efforts. The first disaster trailer was made possible by donations and grants from the all-breed Forsyth Kennel Club in North Carolina ($12,000), as well as $2,500 each from three breed-specific organizations — the German Wirehaired Pointer Club of America, the American Chinese Crested Club, and the English Springer Spaniel Foundation (a sister organization to the ESSFTA, the parent club), with remaining costs covered by AKC Reunite.
The National Orthopedic Foundation for Animals has also pledged a trailer for Missouri, the state where OFA is located. Announcements of other trailer donations in different parts of the country are expected soon. Each trailer is clearly marked with the words “American Kennel Club Pet Disaster Relief” on each side, and clubs that donate $1,000 or more may request that their logo is featured on the trailer as well.
Individuals, corporations and other interested parties can donate to trailer projects in local areas or across the country. Donations are tax deductible and accepted online. A trailer will be on display at the AKC Eukanuba National Championship in Orlando, Fla. on December 13-15.
For more information go to AKC Pet Disaster Relief at www.akcreunite.org/relief or call 919-816-3980 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. AKC Reunite was founded in 1995 and is North America’s largest not-for-profit pet ID and recovery service. For more information go to www.akcreunite.org.